Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Fruits of Our Labor

There are a handful of promising signs in both the United States and Guam that those who care about labor or class issues from a "progressive" or "liberal" slant, will have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

There are plenty of labor activists out there who are praising Obama's selection of California Congresswoman Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor. In 2000 she received a Profiles in Courage Award, click here to read a statement from Senator Ted Kennedy on her work.

There is also hope that the Democrats and Obama will be good on their promise to pass a "Union Bill" next year, which will be aimed at revitalizing unions in the United States and making it easier for employees to become unionized. This will be an incredibly important bill, especially in the context of the recent debate over whether or not to bail out the big American auto-makers. Whereas the government was more than eager to bail out massive corporations without unions, for some reason when it come to bailing out those with strong unions, we meet an incredible amount of resistance, and now its suddenly the employees fault that their industry has tanked.

As Democrats are using the economic mess in America to push for progressive programs, Republicans are hoping to use it to union bust.

On Guam, Matt Rector who has long been known as the outspoken union President of the Guam Federation of Teachers was elected to the Guam Legislature earlier this year. Already he's bringing with him alot of friendly and fiery rhetoric in support of Guam's working masses. His rhetoric might be considered fairly generic Democratic labor union speak on other locales, but on Guam, its pretty radical. I have some misgivings about Matt Rector, mainly because of his personality. For instance I think it would be more appropriate if he resigned as the President of GFT while he's working as Senator, and I understand that when we have issues or causes that we care about very deeply, we can be very passionate and bold, but sometimes Rector has come off as being incredibly disrespectful and angry. I have my causes as well, which make my blood boil and make me want to take to the streets or yell at people, but I also understand that we have to be strategic, and often times I've seen Rector as somebody who has alot of people behind him (in his union) and so speaks as if he's power-tripping.

Only time will tell how effective he can be in the Legislature or how well the labor movements and employee rights movements in the United States can re-constitute themselves.

Speaking of all this kosas i manmacho'cho'cho, I came across a Woody Guthrie song recently on the blog, La Alma de Fuego, that fits this mood. Its titled "1913 Massacre."


1913 Massacre
by Woody Guthrie

Take a trip with me in nineteen thirteen
To Calumet, Michigan in the copper country
I’ll take you to a place called Italian Hall
And the miners are having their big Christmas ball

I’ll take you in a door and up a high stairs
Singing and dancing is heard ev’rywhere
I’ll let you shake hands with the people you see
And watch the kids dance ’round the big Christmas tree.

There’s talking and laughing and songs in the air
And the spirit of Christmas is there ev’rywhere
Before you know it you’re friends with us all
And you’re dancing around and around in the hall

You ask about work and you ask about pay
They’ll tell you they make less than a dollar a day
Working their copper claims, risking their lives
So it’s fun to spend Christmas with children and wives.

A little girl sits down by the Christmas tree lights
To play the piano so you gotta keep quiet
To hear all this fun; you would not realize
That the copper boss thug men are milling outside

The copper boss thugs stuck their heads in the door
One of them yelled and he screamed, “There’s a fire”
A lady she hollered, “There’s no such a thing;
Keep on with your party, there’s no such a thing.”

A few people rushed and there’s only a few
“It’s just the thugs and the scabs fooling you.”
A man grabbed his daughter and he carried her down
But the thugs held the door and he could not get out.

And then others followed, about a hundred or more
But most everybody remained on the floor
The gun thugs, they laughed at their murderous joke
And the children were smothered on the stairs by the door.

Such a terrible sight I never did see
We carried our children back up to their tree
The scabs outside still laughed at their spree
And the children that died there was seventy-three

The piano played a slow funeral tune,
And the town was lit up by a cold Christmas moon
The parents, they cried and the men, they moaned,
“See what your greed for money has done?”

©1961 (Renewed) by Fall River Music Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

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